Painting Matt Over Silk

And we’re back with another short and sweet painting guide! Today’s topic is about whether or not painting matt over silk is a good idea. The short answer is that no, it isn’t. There’s a good reason for that, though it’s also not a hard-and-fast rule. Since we’re not going to be here very long today, let’s get right into things and talk about some painting science!

Painting matt over silk is generally a bad idea. It will result in cracking and crazing, which we’ll discuss momentarily.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

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Why Painting Matt Over Silk is a Bad Idea

Without the proper preparation (which we’ll get to soon) painting matt over silk generally doesn’t work out very well. If you’ve done it before, you’ve noticed that the paint cracks as it dries, ending up looking like a dried river bed. Not only is that a bad look in your home, but it’s actually bad for your paint and walls! The cracks can harbour bacteria and mould, leading to stuff growing in your walls – gross.

But why does that happen? This is caused by the substrate (bottom layer) being a reactive surface. In other words, as it dries, matt paint causes silk paint to soften and expand. Once it’s softened, the matt paint dries and hardens over the top, leading the silk layer to dry out and contract. This pulls the matt surface on the top apart, leading to the cracked look, otherwise known as crazing.

There are solutions out there designed to fix crazing, though I’ve never personally used them. Some people swear by them, though, so if your walls or ceiling are cracked, give one of them a try! Worst case, it doesn’t work and you’re left repainting, which you would’ve been doing anyway.

In short, silk paint is not designed to be an undercoat. Use the right undercoat for the job and you will always see better results.

How to Prep Silk Paint For a Matt Topcoat

This is actually about the same as any other paint job. Some people recommend doing one option or the other out of what I’m about to recommend, but I’ve seen the best results by doing them together.

First things first, you’re going to need to prepare your area. Lay down plastic sheeting on the floor near your workspace and tape off areas you don’t want to touch. Now:

  1. Using a fine-grit sandpaper, rough up your walls a bit. You’re not trying to fully remove the paint layer, but make it a bit more rough so a new layer can stick easily. Make sure to evenly sand every part, as if you miss even a small section, you could see drips or paint just not sticking altogether.
    1. Wipe down your wall with a moist (not soaked) sponge, followed by a dry rag. You don’t want any dust or moisture leftover from sanding getting into your paint or primer layers.
  2. Apply a thin coat of primer, allowing it to dry. Make sure to use the right kind of primer for what you’re using. Your matt paint is likey oil-based, meaning you will want an oil-based primer.
    1. Never mix a water-based primer with an oil-based paint, or vice versa. They will not stick together and may mix in strange, unpleasant ways.
  3. Now apply thin coats of your silk paint to the dry primer. You will need to allow the paint to dry before applying the next coat, and will likely apply 2-3 coats at the very least.

Final Thoughts

Painting matt over silk is not a great idea, but it can be done! If you take the time to properly prepare by sanding and priming the painting area, you should be crack-free. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re going to go through that work, you may as well do it properly with the right primer and undercoats.

Begin (one way or another) by sanding your workspace after getting it prepped with sheeting and tape. After you’ve sanded, apply a thin layer of primer and allow it to dry. Once it’s dried, you can move on to painting your layers of topcoat. If all is done properly, you’ll have a beautiful matt finish with no crazing or cracking.